In this Nov. 7, 2017, file photo, a "for rent" sign hangs outside a Portland building. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

MaineHousing said it has reached a milestone in distributing federal funds that cover rent and utilities for people who are facing hardship related to the pandemic.

Director Daniel Brennan said he expected up to 14,000 households would apply for help — but so far, more than $100 million has been distributed to 17,000 households.

“It really has exceeded our expectations, and normally that’s a good thing when you’re in our business. But in this case, I think it has underscored the crisis that renters are finding themselves in,” Brennan said.

Despite the financial stress brought on by the pandemic, Brennan said the Emergency Rental Assistance Program has helped people stay in their rentals. Average monthly eviction filings in Maine fell to 293 last year, compared with a pre-pandemic average of 430 per month.

“What we’ve seen is that the filing of evictions in Maine now compared to pre-pandemic is down significantly, which is telling us that these funds actually are keeping people out of evictions,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the rental assistance program is expected to continue at least through September.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.